'Hitch' is frame's champ for 3rd straight weekend with $22.7 mil

Judging by its first foreign engagements, “Robots” has a problem: Fox’s toon plays much younger than “Ice Age” and it lacks the charm of talking animal/fish sagas like the “Shrek” pics and “Shark Tale.”

On average, the opening weekends for “Robots” in 30 markets were 29% below the prehistoric tale, although Fox was hoping the Easter break and school vacations in many markets will be a kicker for its kidpic. The ‘bots aren’t “warm and fuzzy” enough to entice sprogs or adults, declared one U.K. booker, who nonetheless was expecting a 25% hike for the pic over Easter. “It’s a strong children’s film, but it’s too kid-oriented to attract the kind of attention that ‘The Incredibles’ did,” opined one German programmer.

In Spain, the Chris Wedge-helmed toon was impacted by the soph sesh of local soccer comedy “The Longest Penalty in the World”: Its lead, Fernando Tejero, who plays a laughably bad goalkeeper, stars in Spain’s highest-rating TV series, “Aqui no hay quien viva,” which is watched by millions of kids.

“Robots” did open bigger than “Ice Age” in some markets, including Russia, the U.K. and Spain, but only because it went out on more screens.

The frame’s champ for the third straight weekend, “Hitch” fetched $22.7 million from 5,000 playdates in 46 territories, and its cume through March 22 vaulted to $103.5 million. “Constantine” also crossed $100 million and “The Aviator” will get there after it launches March 26 in Japan, meaning five titles will have surpassed $100 mill overseas this year.

Receipts in France shot up by 38%, driven by the three-day half-price tix promo; “Hitch’s” lusty bow; “Tout pour plaire,” a kind of Gallic “Sex and the City” starring Anne Parillaud, Judith Godreche and Mathilde Seigner; and “The Beat That My Heart Skipped” a French remake of James Toback’s 1978 cult item “Fingers.”

U.K. takings improved by 18%, although exhibs were disappointed with “Constantine,” which they said pro-rata was well below its U.S. preem. They were pleasantly surprised by a sturdy hold for “Hostage,” which had a mediocre opening in Germany and corpsed in Italy. The theme touches a sensitive nerve in Italy after the recent release of an Italo journo who was held hostage in Iraq and the death of the secret agent who accompanied her.

The Italian B.O. fell by 12% despite an enthusiastic turnout for laffer “Love Manual” from hot producer Aurelio De Laurentiis and helmer Giovanni Veronesi: It’s the first local title to open at No. 1 this year.

“The Ring Two” triumphed in Mexico, Turkey, Norway, Greece and New Zealand and scared up impressive numbers in Holland, Sweden and Thailand.

Winding its tour, “National Treasure” won the gold in Japan and China; its cume topped $156 million and it should overtake domestic’s $168 million.

Entering Japan, its final market, “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” rang up a hearty $2.8 million in four days, boosted by the March 21 national holiday. The sequel’s cume reached $209.3 million and is poised to surpass the original’s $211 million.

In Spain, where biz declined by 18%, bookers were pleased with the response to Cuban-set musical drama “Habana Blues,” Benito Zambrano’s follow-up to his arthouse hit “Solas.”

The Germany B.O. fell by 15% as “Boogeyman” bowed limply and exhibs criticized the fact that the horror pic opened just three weeks after “The Grudge.”

“Pooh’s Heffalump Movie” began tamely in the U.K., Mexico, Spain and Italy, and execs in Blighty said it suffered from the fact that folks can pre-order the DVD. “Why pay £40 ($75) to take your family to the cinema when you can watch it as often as you like at home in just eight weeks?” asked one exhib.

Archie Thomas in London, Liza Klaussmann in Paris, Sheri Jennings in Rome, Esther de Prado in Madrid and Ed Meza in Berlin contributed to this report.

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